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Tracking Visitors

You have to know where your visitors are coming from and where they go once they get on your site if you want to be able to offer them exactly what they need.

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You can't effectively maintain your site without tracking visitors. Once you know specific areas of the site most viewed by visitors and which search engines they're using to reach your site, you can modify your site's focus.

Invoicing, POS and customer tracking all in one.



A common way to learn about your visitors is through log-analysis software. This software examines your server's log files, which include everything that people surfing your site do-such as clicking on a link or loading a graphic-and creates colorful charts and graphs summing up what's been happening on your site.

The software can let you know how often your pages are visited, as well as some basic information on your users, like which countries they're from or what kind of computers they use. It may analyze traffic patterns and long-term trends in Web site popularity. You can also determine the total page views (the number of pages accessed by each individual visitor) and unique page views, as well as the number of times a visitor has logged on to the site each week.

One particularly useful function of log-analysis software is its ability to indicate which Web sites sent surfers your way via a link. Some software can even tell you the specific keywords people are using to find you on a search engine. With this information in hand, you can change your site or your advertising strategy accordingly.

Online retailers are using a variety of tools to help them track their customers. " Hot On The Trail " shows you how you can, too.

You could tell whether you're getting a lot of hits from search engines or whether you're getting links from random pages out there," explains Nick Pisarro, founder of , a Web-counting and traffic-analysis resource. "If you're getting less search engine hits then you originally expected, you might want to re-register your Web site with a totally different search engine or maybe attempt to get a better listing with your current engine."

Log-analysis software is relatively inexpensive. You can buy software direct from a vendor for less than $300, or even download it for free in some cases. Log-analysis software is also typically offered as a value-added service from your hosting company or ISP. However, this software doesn't track specific visitors. You can get a better view of who is visiting your site by collecting a database of names and addresses after offering users the opportunity to register on your site. Once visitors fill out forms, you can put them into a database and then track their moves using data-analysis software.

No matter how you decide to track your customers movements on the Web, e-surveillance has become an absolutely essential weapon for any company doing business on the Internet today-despite some privacy concerns inherent in the process. In fact, some believe success and failure could be determined by the companies that best monitor the online activities of their customers through surveillance.

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines.

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at